Businesses come and go: Why three business have survived on the Strip

Madison Duboise and Sarah Clifton

The location of the Strip and Downtown Tuscaloosa along University Boulevard gives the area and its businesses accessibility to the 38,320 students at The University of Alabama as well as the locals.

Though the Strip and Downtown continue to thrive, other businesses in Tuscaloosa have taken a recent hit due to COVID-19 and the struggles it brought especially onto the restaurant industry. However, even as Ruan Thai and Little Italy Pizzeria closed in the area, others persisted. 

More chains have opened up on the Strip, including Rita’s, PJ’s and Taco Bell, but despite the Strip’s turnover in the last year, Buffalo Phil’s, Rounders and other staples have survived.

Businesses on the Strip are constantly changing, but a few businesses have successfully stood the test of time. 


The Pants Store, a local clothing store, recently experienced renewed popularity after students participating in sorority recruitment in August consistently mentioned the store in “Outfit of the Day” videos on TikTok. 

The videos featured different potential new sorority members showcasing their outfits from the store during #BamaRush, a phenomenon that garnered over 501 million views on the app.  

“With [the store] going national thanks to TikTok, we saw a huge uptick in business,” said Michael Gee, the owner of the Pants Store. “It’s actually kind of funny, because a lot of people think all we do is sell pants, and the confusion really helped get our name out.”

With five locations across Alabama, the Pants Store is popular with students hoping to keep up with the latest fashion trends. 

Hannah Grier, a sophomore majoring in general business, said she considers the Pants Store an essential place to stop every time she shops. 

“They have comfortable clothes that are good for class but also cute going-out clothes,” Grier said.

The store sells clothing and accessories that are popular with different Southern aesthetics. Its merchandise mostly caters to women, though it does sell clothing for men and children as well. 

“Men will wear the same stuff over and over again, but women are keeping up with the trends. … So, it changes a lot, and that makes it a great business for us,” Grier said. 


Rounders on the Strip  boasts a reputation unlike any other in the area.

Rounders is a bar located at 1215 University Blvd. Opened in 2009, the establishment initially began as a cocktail bar. However, in order to serve the growing student clientele in the area, Rounders changed direction over the years.

Freshman Nathan Kay, who is majoring in management information systems, said that Rounders is particularly adept at catering to its audience of mostly college students. 

“The environment and people are great, and it’s a great place to socialize and meet people,” Kay said. “It is one of the most well-known [bars], because they cater to that college experience and run a smooth business.”

The local community of businesses is very intertwined, which is evident in the way the bar hosts events, such as live music and weekly bingo, to sponsor other local establishments.

“It’s a unique alternative avenue for other businesses to get business through us,” said Sam Kastel, marketing manager of Rounders.

The bar serves student patrons every night of the week, and on weekend nights, lines of 50 or more customers extend out the door. Often, some of these bars have wait times of up to two hours and covers of $25 to $50 per entrance.

The bar remodeled the Boom Boom Room, a VIP experience room inside of the bar, right before COVID-19 hit. There is a rooftop area as well for customers to hang out and listen to music. 

“The Strip is known for being an ambient space off campus that a lot of students can access,” Kastel said. “There is such a different environment here than what you’ll find anywhere else, because we’re always looking to innovate and do things that no other college town does.”

Many bars, such as Gallettes, The Red Shed, Twelve 25 and Houndstooth also make their homes along University Boulevard and experience similar levels of success. Sabrina Jahn, a junior majoring in accounting, said that Rounders’ success, as well as the success of other bars nearby, is a result of the bars’ college-town home.


Buffalo Phil’s is well known for its wings and bar-style food. It was first known as Wings & Things in 1980, and in 1992, it was renamed Buffalo Phil’s. It has been a staple for Tuscaloosa residents for over 40 years with its location right in the middle of the Strip.

“A large part of Buffalo Phil’s success is because we are in a college town, they cater to the students in the area,” said Meredith Conant, a sophomore business marketing major. “I think they have really good food, everyone seems to recommend it. It is a go-to for students in the area.”

From wings to homemade peanut butter pie, Buffalo Phil’s caters to American taste and is often crowded on game days and weekends. As a plus, the restaurant takes Bama Cash and Dining Dollars, making it popular with UA students.

“Buffalo Phil’s takes dining dollars, and they have quick service as well as really good bar-type food,” freshman Blaire Barret said. “They have a great location on the Strip; they are right there and easily accessible.”

The restaurant has grown a community with the locals and students during its time on the Strip.

“The University connects everyone,” said Christian Pierce, the general manager of Buffalo Phil’s. “As the rotation of new students comes in, the community keeps getting bigger and bigger. … I think it puts little Tuscaloosa on a huge map in that way.”

The establishment also finds itself as part of a strong familial community with the other businesses down the Strip.

“I think it’s special here, partly because it’s kind of a small town,” Pierce said. “We’re a really tight-knit family around here, and we aren’t out here bashing each other; instead, we all have each other’s backs.”

The unique local businesses that reside along the Strip create a close-knit community in the city. These establishments have such a permanent presence due to their effort to cater to their college student audience.

“It really is part of Tuscaloosa and the campus,” said Mallory Mclauchlin, a sophomore majoring in political science. “You always see people walking down the streets, just browsing or having a good time. I love the community of the Strip. Everything seems so intertwined.”